MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)-- This year is turning out to be a dangerous one for snowmobiling in Wisconsin.
New numbers from the Wisconsin DNR show that 17 people have died while snowmobiling in the state this season. Three people died while snowmobiling just this past weekend, according to a release Monday. All three of the victims were from Illinois.
That's one more fatally compared to the season last year, when 16 people died while driving their snowmobiles in Wisconsin.
February is one of the most dangerous months to snowmobile, the DNR says. So far this month, nine people have died while snowmobiling.
Alcohol, speeding, driver inexperience and operating errors are the leading causes of snowmobile fatalities, according to the DNR. The Journal Sentinel reports that two of them died after striking trees and one person was killed after being struck by another snowmobile rider, the Journal Sentinel reported.
Now the DNR is calling snowmobile enthusiasts to be extra careful out on the trails.
"Safe snowmobiling means you must operate within your specific capabilities, operating at safe following distances when riding with others and use the right speeds for the terrain, daylight or night riding," according to DNR Conservation Warden Lt. Martin Stone, administrator for the DNR's Off-Highway Vehicle program.
Over 200,000 snowmobiles are registered in Wisconsin, used over the state's 25,000 miles of groomed trails.
"Wardens and partner law enforcement recreational patrols are on those trails, working to keep the trails safe and fun for all to enjoy. We always ask that people ride responsibly," Stone says.
According to the DNR's snowmobile crash incident reports:
In 2019, 16 people died while snowmobiling in Wisconsin. Ten crashes had alcohol as a factor. The statistics were from Jan. 4 - March 20.
In 2018, 19 people died during the reporting period of Jan. 5- Dec. 31. Only one of those fatalities included a definitive ‘no’ for alcohol use. Two other cases were still listed as pending.
The 2015/2016 season shows it had been the safest in recent record, with nine deaths. In the 2014/2015 season, 12 people died.